First of all, let me start off by saying congratulations. High school is not an easy feat, and being on a FIRST team doesn’t make that task any simpler. As many of you move on to college/university, often times a major decision has to be made. Whether you’re going to an engineering school or not, take a look at the questions below to help you in choosing between schools. Congratulations!
1. In your department/school what is the percentage of female students? What is the percentage of female faculty?
While this may not be as big of an issue in some departments, particularly in Engineering and Science departments the faculty ratio is low. The national average of female engineering students in a college graduating class is now at ~20%. Keep in mind that this doesn’t count any classes in ANY department where you may be the only female in the class or lab. Sound like an issue- contact the school for more information. In my own experience, my grade in particular had the highest percentage of females accepted to the college ever, and I was still the only female student in multiple labs and classes. While this wasn’t a major issue, in a few classes, there were still instances where professors NEVER answered one of my questions or NEVER called on me (see question 4!!).
2. Are there extracurricular activities at the college (that you enjoyed in high school) that you want to continue with?
Extracurriculars (like FIRST!) can make school bearable. When choosing your college, consider what activities are available and which ones are the MOST important to you, as you may only have time for one or two activities instead of four or five…If they don’t have your activity, how hard is it to start a new club or group? How comfortable would you be starting the group as a freshman? What steps would you need to take?
3. (If able to) have you gone on a campus tour?
While a campus tour is always the best way, there are always other ways to get a feel for campus. Many schools offer campus maps on their websites, but check to see if your schools offer a virtual tour or 3D tour of campus. Some schools also provide student and faculty interviews on their website, which brings us to question 4!
4. What do current students think about the program? What do they like/not like about the school?
Being able to talk to students who have been in your shoes is ALWAYS helpful, and it’s an added bonus when they can see your future (academically). Have you spoken to a student during a campus visit? (Was it a good conversation?) GREAT! (Was it a negative conversation? have you not spoken with any students?)See if the admissions department or an academic department is able to get you in touch with another student. Talking to a current student is incredibly important. Plus you can ask questions like: is the food good? what are the most popular weekend activities? what is the best dorm to live in? what professors should you avoid? etc.
**For this question, a conversation with a student ambassador or tour guide most likely isn’t enough. For best results (no matter your major) make sure you speak with someone in that major or school (business, engineering, nursing, etc). Interested in a particular extracuricular activity? You can probably find a student to talk to you about those too!
5. If you know what your final career goal is (ie. engineer at NASA, analayst at Goldman Sachs, imagineer at Disney, programmer at Apple) is your school on that company’s list or in their recruitment area?
Many companies only recruit from a few schools. This isn’t against all colleges in general, but if school A is across the street or next door from a company and school B is 40 miles away, that company most likely is going to do it’s recruiting at school A. If say, instead you decide to attend school C which is on the other side of the country, a company may not have heard of your school or could have filled all of their intern and full-time postitions by the time they start looking schools that’s aren’t on their short list.
Keep in mind that these are just some questions to keep in mind. Most importantly we learned the importance of two things (1) visiting a school’s campus (2) speaking with current students. If you’re still unsure, start there. And when in doubt make a pros and cons list!! Good luck seniors, CONGRATULATIONS!!
PICKING THE RIGHT COLLEGE FOR YOU- SENIOR EDITION3/26/2016
0 CommentsTHE SAD TALE OF A SEXIST TEAM3/19/2016
A problem that is systemic to our robotics team is that it is very bad at identifying and addressing the unique struggles of people with marginalized identities, and helping tackle those problems to help marginalized students stay on the robotics team. When I was at a diversity conference, I met an Alumni and former member of my FIRST team who was only on the team for two weeks. As a person of color in the foster care system, she found it difficult to learn about robotics in an environment that to her, seemed built for the education of mathematically intelligent and culturally aware white men. Due to her social anxiety and her minimal education from her years spent switching schools, she found it very difficult to keep up with the fast-paced learning environment and the team culture, a difficulty that I became intimate with as the business and outreach captain. I’d like to say that I knew how to deal with members of my business and outreach sub-team being forced to quit one by one due to their marginalization by society, but as a middle-class white woman, I was completely unprepared for the collapse of my sub-team, and had I been as well educated in diversity as I am today, I could have prevented its collapse.
Another problem that we have, although not unique to our FIRST robotics team, and, in fact, a struggle of probably every FIRST robotics team everywhere is grappling with the systemic biases against marginalized groups in STEM. On our team, women, people of color, and other minorities concentrate in the business and outreach sub-team due to systemic biases against these people in STEM which present themselves as microaggressions on other sub-teams. Due to its non-STEM nature, and its reputation as a sub-team of marginalized identities, the business and outreach sub-team on our team receives sub-par treatment as a sub-team, microaggressions from team members, limited budget, and micromanagement from non-sub-team members. At the beginning of the year, our sub-team consisted of me and 6 other people. One by one each member of the sub-team quit the team until I was the last one standing. The business and outreach captain, and the whole team.
The first to quit was a man of color. He struggled with school work, and couldn’t deal with the outside labor required to run the sub-team. We weren’t lost without him, partially because we didn’t have much actual sub-team autonomy in the first place, but also because our former sub-team captain was still on the team as Deputy Captain. The second to quit was one of my best friends. As a senior she was having anxiety about her ability to fund her college education and dropped out of robotics to work a part-time job. The third to quit was my other best friend. As a person with social anxiety she found it hard to cope with the demands of team participation without my other friend there to assist her, and because the team meets after the last activity bus leaves, she has to walk to robotics from her house three miles from the school. As the cold winter came, she left.
Our previous year’s team captain did a lot of work for the business and outreach team although technically not a part of the sub-team, however, she too quit the sub-team and the team in general. As deputy captain, she was not taken seriously. The sexist microaggressions and ableism got to a point where it triggered a violent outburst. She then left the team.
Our team fills out the chairman’s award application every year, partially because it helps us qualify for state, but also because our team’s head mentor genuinely believes that we have a chance of winning it if only our application and business and outreach team were good enough. As business and outreach captain, I might not have known much about diversity, but after that year, I came to the realization that our team would never have a hope to win chairman unless the business and outreach sub-team was dissolved and the business and outreach responsibilities were distributed equally among the sub-teams, by making chairman’s a full team priority instead of “women’s work” we could easily become a team worthy of the chairman’s award.
I didn’t get the opportunity to dissolve the business and outreach sub-team however. I was elected business and outreach captain as the only person on business and outreach. After years without a business and outreach mentor, we finally got one, and a few students.
The mentorship model of FIRST robotics combined with our attendance culture is very vulnerable to pervasive systemic bias. If you don’t show up to enough meetings, no matter what reason, you aren’t trusted with the robot, and therefore, don’t learn. If you aren’t confident with your abilities enough to ask for help from a mentor, or volunteer to work on the robot, you don’t learn. Team captaincy on our team is done via elections, but as long as I have been on the team, they have been spectacles of sexism, and if you don’t get along with the team captain, you don’t learn.
After the senior class of our team graduates, there will be four non-freshman women and two non-freshman people of color remaining on the team. The business and outreach mentor will be the only female mentor. 2/3rds of the women will be on business and outreach. In the history of our team there has never been a woman as team captain. As a team, I know that we are better than this. Historically, our team used to be one of the feminist teams. We were founded by one of the all-woman teams in our state, and at the beginning of our team’s life, we had one of the best gender ratios among mixed FIRST robotics teams. We have done better and we need to do better. For our sake, hold us to it.
This blog post was written by Michelle Parziale. If you are interested in blogging for blogging for FIRST Ladies, click here to sign up on the schedule.
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